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A History of Trade Unionism in the United States

The Pinkertons were defeated and driven away and


Negotiations

for the new scale presented to the company began in February 1892. A few weeks later the company presented a scale to the men providing for a reduction and besides demanded that the date of the termination of the scale be changed from July 1 to January 1. A number of conferences were held without result; and on May 30 the company submitted an ultimatum to the effect that, if the scale were not signed by June 29, they would treat with the men as individuals. At a final conference which was held on June 23, the company raised its offer from $22 per ton to $23 as the minimum base of the scale, and the union lowered its demand from $25, the rate formerly paid, to $24. But no agreement could be reached on this point nor on others and the strike began June 29 upon the definite issue of the preservation of the union.

Even before the negotiations were broken up, Frick had arranged with the Pinkerton detective agency for 300 men to serve as guards. These men arrived at a station on the Ohio River below Pittsburgh near midnight of July 5. Here they embarked on barges and were towed up the river to Pittsburgh and taken up the Monangahela River to Homestead, which they approached about four o'clock on the morning of July 6. The workmen had been warned of their coming and, when the boat reached the landing back of the steel works, nearly the whole town was there to meet them and to prevent their landing. Passion ran high. The men armed themselves with guns

and gave the Pinkertons a pitched battle. When the day was over, at least half a dozen men on both sides had been killed and a number were seriously wounded. The Pinkertons were defeated and driven away and, although there was no more disorder of any sort, the State militia appeared in Homestead on July 12 and remained for several months.

The strike which began in Homestead soon spread to other mills. The Carnegie mills at 29th and 33d Streets, Pittsburgh, went on strike. The strike at Homestead was finally declared off on November 20, and most of the men went back to their old positions as non-union men. The treasury of the union was depleted, winter was coming, and it was finally decided to consider the battle lost.

The defeat meant not only the loss by the union of the Homestead plant but the elimination of unionism in most of the mills in the Pittsburgh region. Where the great Carnegie Company led, the others had to follow. The power of the union was henceforth broken and the labor movement learned the lesson that even its strongest organization was unable to withstand an onslaught by the modern corporation. The Homestead strike stirred the labor movement as few other single events. It had its political reverberation, since it drove home to the workers that an industry protected by high tariff will not necessarily be a haven to organized labor, notwithstanding that the union had actively assisted the iron and steel manufacturers in securing the high protection granted by the McKinley tariff bill of 1890. Many of the votes which would otherwise have gone to the Republican candidate for President went in 1892 to Grover Cleveland, who ran on an anti-protective tariff issue. It is not unlikely that the latter's victory was materially advanced by the disillusionment brought on by the Homestead defeat.


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